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[at-awl, -ol, -ohl, uh-tawl, uh-tol, uh-tohl] /ˈæt ɔl, -ɒl, -oʊl, əˈtɔl, əˈtɒl, əˈtoʊl/
a ring-shaped coral reef or a string of closely spaced small coral islands, enclosing or nearly enclosing a shallow lagoon.
Origin of atoll
1615-25; earlier atollon < French: a word used in early descriptions of the Maldive Island atolls; said to be Divehi (Indo-Aryan language of the Maldives) atoḷu Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for atoll
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • But there is a third kind of reef, of very common occurrence in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, which goes by the name of "atoll."

    Autobiography and Selected Essays Thomas Henry Huxley
  • The atoll is known, but uncharted, because it is far outside the routes.

    The Pagan Madonna Harold MacGrath
  • Once more he raised the glass to his eye and gazed toward the inlet of the atoll.

    Adrift on the Pacific Edward S. Ellis
  • With this chart a landlubber could have gone straight to the atoll.

    The Pagan Madonna Harold MacGrath
  • At Bulubul, another island of this atoll, a downy young was obtained on August 22.

  • For a trifling sum I could have chartered a schooner and sought the atoll.

    The Pagan Madonna Harold MacGrath
  • But the Misi and Cactus, unable to get clear of each other, went ashore on the atoll half a mile from the passage.

    A Son Of The Sun Jack London
British Dictionary definitions for atoll


/ˈætɒl; əˈtɒl/
a circular coral reef or string of coral islands surrounding a lagoon
Word Origin
C17: from atollon, native name in the Maldive Islands
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for atoll

1620s, atollon, from Malayam atolu "reef," probably from adal "closing, uniting." Popularized in present form by Darwin's writings.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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atoll in Science
  (āt'ôl', ā'tôl')   

A coral island or series of coral islands forming a ring that nearly or entirely encloses a shallow lagoon. Atolls are surrounded by deep ocean water and range in diameter from about 1 km (0.62 mi) to over 100 km (62 mi). They are especially common in the western and central Pacific Ocean and are believed to form along the fringes of underwater volcanoes. Compare barrier reef, fringing reef.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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atoll in Culture
atoll [(a-tawl, a-tol, ay-tawl, ay-tol)]

A coral island that surrounds a lagoon. (See coral reef.)

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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